Today’s question is, Is it OK for Christians to be discontent with being single?
Last time we asked if singleness is a lesson sent from God to fix sin in a person’s life. I argued that because our world is fallen, singleness might have more to do with the brokenness of the world than with personal sin in your life. However, saying that the world is fallen is not to say that God is not in control of it.
The ostrich in Job 39 is, apparently, created by God to be stupid, so stupid she even tramples her own eggs. Some things in God’s world don’t make sense. Some things seem random. Would the order be different if the world wasn’t fallen? Was the ostrich that stupid in Genesis 1? Who knows? We do not know God’s world apart from its fallenness, and yet even in that fallenness, God affirms that he is its designer.
When we speak of God as sovereign over the mess, the point is not to go looking for the order or the reason or the plan in the fallenness but to admit that we don’t get it. And don’t like it. It’s OK to name the messiness. This is where the question of being discontent comes into it.
Saying, ‘Being single doesn’t seem right for me’ is OK. That’s precisely the point of the ostrich: it doesn’t look right. There are some things that don’t seem to fit, that we don’t understand. This is why there’s a whole book of the Bible devoted to the absurdity of the world.
This is also not to say that God delights in chaos or loves the mess. On the contrary, from the very first chapter of the Bible, he is bringing order out of chaos! Likewise, Jesus’ attitude to the fallen things of this world is hardly tolerant: he goes around healing sick people, casting out demons, feeding the hungry, and ultimately defeats death. He puts to rights that which is broken.
Now, some Christians would argue, based on 1 Corinthians 7, that while there are some things we are to dislike about our world, singleness is not one of them. As I said last time, singleness can be a wonderful, fruitful thing. However, 1 Corinthians 7 hardly argues that singleness is a natural state for human beings. The kind of singleness on view in 1 Corinthians 7 is voluntary, and instigated because of some kind of eschatological crisis. The assumption there is that singleness is kind of counter-intuitive for human beings, that it’s not quite the norm or the usual. So it can be good, but my point is, it may not be, and you don’t have to feel that it is.
My aim here has been to set you free if you have been feeling that you must accept your singleness as good. My hope is to give you the freedom to feel that it is not right and to name that. There is an appropriate kind of discontentment in the Christian life. We know that because Jesus himself demonstrated great sorrow at the state of the world. It’s a discontent that longs for home, where things will be put to rights, where all the desires of our hearts will be met, and where our relationships will be harmonious and fulfilling. It’s possible that if you feel unhappy in your singleness, that’s part of what you are feeling. I want to validate that, to say, that’s OK. There may be something very good and right and holy to that feeling.
So where is the hope in all this? Our hope is in the one who gets you. Remember Jesus’ incarnation: his suffering was not just in his horrific death but in his life as well, as he knew loneliness, sickness, hunger, weakness, sorrow and frustration. None of these were the result of his sin since he was sinless. They were part of what it means to live in a fallen world. And Jesus knows this feeling; he’s lived this. He’s experienced the unfairness. He knows the pain. He gets the ‘why me?’ And he’s doing something about it. He’s re-making the world. His resurrection is the first-fruits not only of new life in you but of a new world for you free from tears. So if there’s anyone to cry out to for change and for comfort, it’s him!
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.